By Sara Schneider, Sunset wine editor
Sure, I’ll make some wine … Yikes! Words are easy; crushing and fermenting and racking are … somebody else’s job—but a pretty darn-near irresistible challenge. What does a wine editor do when she’s asked to put her money where her mouth is, so to speak? Find a book on home winemaking (words again, but they are the stock in trade around here).
The first one I hit on I highly recommend already: The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home, by Sheridan Warrick (published by the UC Press just last year). Chapters 1 and 2 alone, full of specific detail on the equipment and kind of space you need, have practically launched this project. And as luck would have it, Dan Warrick used to be the executive editor of one of our sister magazines, Health (he’s a senior editor at VIA now), and—unbelievable coincidence here—he’s a great friend of my neighbors! A Saturday night dinner around their kitchen table, over a couple of bottles of his wine (good stuff, especially the dry Riesling), clinched his support. We’re going to have Dan on speed dial come late September.
And maybe a few other pros. I haven’t been able to stop myself, telling every winemaker I’ve crossed paths with in the last few weeks that I’m going to try my hand at it this year (calculated humble swagger there, just begging to be crushed). When I described the project to Tony Soter, who founded Etude winery in Carneros (very yummy Pinot Noirs) and has consulted on many, many top Napa Valley wines, the first thing he said was, “I’ll be your consulting winemaker!” Now that would be a coup. Unfortunately for us (fortunately for the wine-drinking world), Tony has moved to Oregon to start another winery, Soter Vineyards. Still, there’s speed dial …
And lots of concrete details to take care of—find some grapes (before they’re ripe!), figure out where to make this stuff (where there’s lots of water available to keep everything clean, says Dan), and beg, borrow, and steal equipment. This isn’t a one-person job—the best Sunset talent has joined Team Wine (Team Chicken, what do you really need to do besides keep the little critters alive?): Erika Ehmsen, copy chief (with impressive winemaking connections; more later); Lauren Swezey, special projects editor in the garden department; Irene Edwards, executive editor; and Sara Jamison, style coordinator (this, above all, is going to be stylish wine).